Musical chairs

The other day I wanted to burn an audio CD from some songs in my iTunes library, but I wasn’t planning on using iTunes to do the actual burning. I prefer to have more control over my tracks—such as setting gaps of different lengths between individual songs, or creating crossfades—so I typically use Roxio’s Toast with Jam 6 for such purposes.

I put together a 78-minute playlist in iTunes (a few of the tracks were songs I’d purchased from the iTunes Music Store) and then selected all the tracks in the playlist and dragged them into the Jam window as I’ve done many times before. Jam began populating with the songs I’d selected—and then it choked when it got to a purchased music file, telling me it couldn’t import protected music. I’d never had this problem before, and then it hit me—Apple must have changed something with QuickTime 7 (I’m running Tiger) to disable third-party usage of its protected-AAC files. Chris Breen also tested burning using Toast, and found that it would burn an audio CD, but that those tracks from protected files were actually silent.

And then last week, Roxio released an update to its Toast product that officially turned off the same ability regardless of QuickTime version. The release notes stated that “following discussions with Apple, this version will no longer allow customers to create audio CDs, audio DVDs, or export audio to their hard drive using purchased iTunes music store content.”

It’s obvious from that statement that Roxio didn’t create this update because it wanted to, but because it had to. Apple’s tactics seem to have very little to do with controlling potential piracy, and more to do with controlling how and where users can enjoy their purchased music. As a customer, I should have the right to use whichever software I want to create my audio CDs—especially when Apple’s own software doesn’t provide all the functionality that it could. Yes, Apple gives iTunes away for free, but that doesn’t mean people who pay for something different should suffer. With every added restriction, it feels less like we own the music we buy, and more—regardless of what Steve Jobs has said—like we’re just renting it.

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